The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Transparent small speaker review: Does its performance match its looks?

We take a closer look – and listen – to discover if the speaker delivers the full package

David RS Taylor
Thursday 11 March 2021 17:27
<p>Testing everything from design to sound, we find out if this is a worthy investment</p>

Testing everything from design to sound, we find out if this is a worthy investment

Scandinavia has built itself a pretty considerable reputation when it comes to a strong design aesthetic. Everyone wants something a bit “Scandi” in their front room, be it a precise, angular, yet somehow comfortable sofa, or a coffee table in dark walnut with a barely-decipherable name. 

Anyone who says otherwise is lying, or actually living in Scandinavia where everything already looks like that.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the best-looking speakers made in the last ten years has come out of the region. 

Audio brand Transparent is the brainchild of founding duo Per Brickstad and Martin Willers, former members of Stockholm design studio People People, with the aim of running a company transparent in its design, sound and business ethos.

Read more: 11 best Bluetooth speakers for every budget

One blogpost manifesto and 2012 Kickstarter campaign later, and Transparent was born. Their mission: to become the first “circular tech brand”, with modular products that are forever upgradable, get better with age, and help to save on electronic waste. Nothing too ambitious, then.  

Companies with strong morals go one of two ways: wildly successful or consigned to history. Happily for Transparent, these morals go hand in hand with an appealing range of products, with sound as clear as its mission statement. 

The original Transparent speaker has been followed by the aptly-named small speaker, a dinkier version with the same design spirit. The question is, does the smaller version still pack the same punch? We put it to the test.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Small Transparent Speaker

Output: 2x15W

Frequency: 60 Hz-20 kHz

Weight: 3.3kg

Wireless options: Bluetooth, dual speaker pairing, ability to upgrade to your own specifications

Voice control: No, compatible with Apple AirPlay, Sonos, Amazon Echo and Google Cast

Buy now £450, Transpa.rent/en

Design

Transparent by name, transparent by nature. This is a beautiful speaker. Transparent’s more sustainable, modular set up means you can continue to upgrade your purchase by replacing its constituent parts, instead of having to buy an entirely new speaker. There is, for example, space hidden in the bottom casing for further wireless options alongside the built-in Bluetooth. There’s space for other upgrades, too, such as a voice control input, if that’s your bag.

We tested the newer release, with a matte black finish (white is also available). The speaker’s single aluminium frame and tempered glass panels lend themselves to the darker colour, and the design advantages are twofold: the glass shows off the speaker interior in all its minimalistic glory, while the unit’s transparency means the speaker fits – and even elevates – pretty much any spot in any room. We found it to work perfectly both on our work desk and living room table, a good sign of its longevity, especially when all of us are spending more time at home.  

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Apple iPhone 12

The little details aren’t missed. On previous designs, the speaker’s cables were bright red, which could detract from the look. Not here: black is the new black, a sensible move to complete the speaker’s uniform style. One piece of advice: make sure to use the nifty white gloves provided with the speaker, as it’s a bind to clean grubby, overly-keen fingerprints off. Another good reminder to wash your hands.

The founders’ end point is closing the material loop – that is, to use materials exclusively from recycled sources. They’re not quite there yet, but it’s a realistic ambition. Included in the box are clear instructions on how to disassemble the speaker, making us all amateur audio electricians and encouraging us to buy into the modular way of life.

Sound

Transparency and clarity are important elements of good sound – how loyal is the sound from a speaker to the artist’s original recording? With a glass build, there’s always a worry that sound has been sacrificed for looks. That isn’t the case here, with consistent clarity throughout testing, and no effect on glass or sound integrity whatsoever at any volume.

Read more: 10 best home security cameras that give you ultimate peace of mind

The audio is, as is the case with many Scandinavian products (again), as clear as you could hope for, with a solid bass and impressively full and warm sound throughout the frequencies for a more compact speaker. The 2x15W output has been paired with a honed Digital Signal Processor chip to create close to studio-level quality, something that’s a thrill to hear coming out of a speaker this size sat on the desk next to you.

The latest Small Transparent Speaker collection includes true wireless pairing, giving users the option of streaming music through two speakers simultaneously without the need of expensive extras. A welcome addition.  

The verdict: Transparent small speaker

Transparent’s Swedish design and audio technology mean you simply can’t go wrong with this, and modular upgrades will only make it better. It’s designed to last forever, an approach sorely lacking from the ethos of many of the game’s big players.

The speaker is definitely one to choose a spot for and stick with – the fewer touches of the glass, the better. It also comes with wall mounts for a particularly impressive presentation. Luckily, it won’t be hard to pick the right spot, as it’s harder to find the wrong one.

While Transparent’s original, bigger speaker is more of a statement piece, at half the price the small Transparent speaker fits perfectly anywhere in the home, has the audio capability to comfortably fill the room with crystal clear sound, and reflects the brand’s laudable values. Different, refreshing and packed with quality.

Control your music, listen to audiobooks and more with the best smart speakers 

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in